Senators’ Amendments to Energy Bill Would Finally Hold Mining Industry Accountable for its Pollution

Yesterday, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), joined by U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) offered an amendment to the American Energy  Innovation Act, the energy bill pending on the Senate floor, to finally require mining companies to pay a royalty rate and reclamation fee for the ability to extract mineral resources like gold, silver, and copper on public lands. Senator Stabenow and Richard Durbin (D-IL) offered another amendment removing provisions of the energy bill intended to limit the public’s voice in our Government’s mine permitting decisions.

Statement of Aaron Mintzes, Senior Policy Counsel:

“We applaud Tom Udall, Debbie Stabenow and their Senate colleagues’ efforts to hold mining companies accountable for their pollution, protect communities and save taxpayer dollars. Communities across the country are living with pollution from mining accidents, and taxpayers — not the polluters — are often paying for cleanup.  American taxpayers shoulder an enormous financial burden from hardrock mining. Unlike other extractive industries, mining companies pay no royalties under current law. Whoever stakes a claim and discovers valuable minerals on public lands claims those riches — more than $300 billion and counting since 1872 — without giving taxpayers a dime for them. And unlike coal miners, hardrock miners pay no reclamation fee, leaving taxpayers a $50 billion cleanup bill for 500,000 abandoned hardrock mines.

“If these pass, it would be a step toward long-overdue reform of federal mining laws, which were written 150 years ago for pick and shovel miners. They’re out of touch and out of scale with modern industrial hardrock mining. We need mining laws that will protect drinking water and hold mining companies responsible for their pollution.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION: 

The amendment in full
1872 Mining Law reform